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Geoscientists & The Green Economy

Mining’s critical role for a sustainable future

Mining has a long history in Ireland dating back around nine thousand years to the Stone Age. As we stand on the cusp of a new Industrial Revolution driven by digital technology and the need to build a new green economy, it’s expected that mining will be just as critical to our future as it has been to our past.

Institute of Geologists of Ireland

The Institute of Geologists of Ireland (IGI) recently published a series of factual, science-based resources produced by experts in mineral exploration, mining and the environment. Their aim is to raise awareness of the “role of mineral exploration and mining in meeting Ireland’s future societal, economic and environmental needs”.

The IGI commented that although we live in a society which is ever more dependent on metals for technology – particularly those renewable technologies which will replace our current dependency on fossil fuels – there is little recognition of mining’s critical role in achieving this shift. The IGI warned that persistent misinformation in relation to exploration activities could eventually impair the sector’s ability to support the transition.

Renewable Technology

Moving towards a decarbonised society and economy means transitioning away from traditional sources of energy such as coal, gas and oil. It requires developing alternative, renewable sources – wind, solar, geothermal and battery storage – all of which the IGI argues are “reliant on utilising a wide variety of metals and minerals”.

According to the IGI’s John Barry: “Renewable energy to mitigate climate warming is not possible without metals. Mineral exploration and mining are essential to ensure supply of these metals”.

Despite the increasing importance of mining, IGI points out that Europe is 75% dependent on imports for almost all metals and up to 100% for some critical minerals. This is against a backdrop of mineral production in Europe which “is already lagging behind the rest of the world, and declining (down 19% between 2000 and 2018)” whilst “demand for minerals and metals has reached an all-time high, driven by population increase, advances in modern technologies and the move towards a low-carbon economy”.

The World Bank anticipates that demand for metals, including copper and silver, to support the clean energy transition will increase.

It is difficult to see how the vision of a sustainable, green economy will become a reality without modern, responsible mining from across the globe.

To read the IGI’s factsheets on Mining through the Ages, Mineral Exploration in Ireland, Lifetime Value of a Mine, Environmental Oversight and Mining and our Green Future visit: www.igi.ie/minerals-information-working-group/

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